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Line Between Work and Life Blurred for Executives

By Melissa J. Anderson

Recent research by Forbes Insights shows the line between work and life is becoming increasingly blurred. This may come as news to no one, but the surprising factor is that they don’t seem to mind.

According to the study, only three in ten European respondents said they felt irritated at the trend toward time blending and less than two in ten American respondents agreed. It seems that executives have accepted and embraced how new technology enables individuals to work and collaborate on the fly. But the majority, it seems, finds what Forbes calls the “@Work State of Mind” just fine.

As Christoph Becker, CEO and Chief Creative Officer at Gyro, the company behind the report writes, “Work is no longer a place, but a state of mind. There are no boundaries between work and leisure. It’s now just life.”

For business leaders, excelling means staying connected – and the study shows why.

Report Findings

The study, “The @Work State of Mind Project: Engaging the Most Engaged” polled 543 executives in the US and Europe, to find out how and when they’re connected. And, the study revealed, that’s most of the time. Rick Segal, President Worldwide and Chief Practice Officer at the Global Ideas Shop, parent company of Gyro, wrote, “The Internet, mobile telecom, social networking and a 24/7 global economy have eliminated the boundaries of time and space that once defined the workplace. Technology has caused work to expand to longer hours of the day and has attached work to people wherever they are.”

But work is not just spilling into personal time – the opposite is true as well. The report explains:

“Almost three in five respondents (59%) said that they made business decisions at home, while almost two in three (64%) said that they made decisions while traveling on business and an additional one in three (30%) said that they made business decisions while traveling with family. At the same time, 98% of respondents said that they dealt with personal matters in the office, with 41% saying that they spend more than 10% of their time doing so.”

Only 3% of respondents don’t send or receive emails on vacation and only 2% said they never work nights or weekends. “More than half the respondents (52%) said they receive information related to business decisions round-the-clock, including weekends,” the study continues.

Finally, when it comes to dinner or family engagements, most respondents said they usually make an attempt to disconnect. The largest group (41%) said they step away family activities only occasionally, and the next largest group (31%) said they do it rarely. Only 12% said they do it multiple times or at least once per event, and 17% said they interrupt family events for business “almost never.”

Control

Forbes explains, “Executives are 365-day, 24-hour networks, ready to parachute into any pressing issue. Technology has enabled the rapid response and made it the norm. Executives who do not engage with the information flow risk falling behind, or worse, worry about what they might have missed.”

The report continues,

“Even Europe, with its traditionally greater emphasis on vacations than North America, now accepts downtime interruptions as common practice. Indeed, almost seven in 10 respondents (69%) from Continental Europe said that they sent or received emails during all or most vacations (this may bear some relationship to the length of many European vacations). That’s eight percentage points higher than among U.S. professionals.”

In general, 63% of respondents said they check their email on their smartphone at least once per hour or two.

One of the key factors in how “at east” respondents felt with the “@Work State of Mind” was the level of control they had over separating work from personal time. The report explains, “…only 15% of them said they are rarely or never able to do so, versus 24% of those who feel a lack of control. Since both groups spend similar amounts of time working on weekends, evenings, etc., this seems to be a matter of successful mental compartmentalization.”

In order to make sure key business leaders aren’t overwhelmed by technology, companies should ensure they are able to make decisions on when and where they will connect – chances are, that will be most any time or place. But providing a measure of control will enable them to feel more positively about the disappearing line between work and life.

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